Trump ducks questions TRANSCRIPT: 4/24/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we`re going continue
to increase testing dramatically in the weeks ahead.
So, we want to thank our governors for the progress that we`re making on
testing and for their role in urging their citizens to practice the kind of
mitigation and social distancing efforts that are really making real
We`re one team, one mission. And that`s to save lives. And because of all
of the efforts that have been made at the state level and the strong
guidance that`s come from the federal level, because of the amazing health
care workers across this country and our first responders, but, mostly, I
believe, because of the cooperation of millions of Americans who have put
the guidance into practice, their cooperation and their prayers have set us
on a path where we are slowing the spread, we are protecting our most
And I truly do believe the day will soon come when we will heal our land,
and we will be able to reopen America and put this great nation back to
Thank you, Mr. President.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Mr. President?
QUESTION: Mr. President…
QUESTION: Is now the time for sarcasm?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that was the daily
press briefing, a shorter-than-usual press briefing than we are used to.
You heard from President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence. And the big
headline today, the FDA saying that it has approved the first at-home
testing kit by LabCorp. So that is certainly significant.
You also heard Vice President Mike Pence saying that 18 states are now
showing a decline in cases of COVID-19. This is significant, because this
is really the first day that we haven`t had questions from President Trump
from the media.
Of course, these press briefings usually last for quite some time. The
longest has gone nearly two hours. So this was certainly a shorter-than-
usual press conference that we have seen from the president and the task
Now, of course, it is notable, because it comes on the heels of this
controversy that we have been tracking throughout the day, in which, of
course, President Trump during yesterday`s briefing mused about the fact,
would it be possible that U.V. lights, that heat, that disinfectants could
potentially be used to help treat COVID-19?
Dr. Birx, who was there with him, saying that, no, that is not a possible
treatment. And now, based on our reporting, we have learned that, in fact,
it really caught a number of White House officials off-guard.
During an event in the Oval Office earlier today, President Trump saying
that he was merely being sarcastic, and so trying to walk back the comments
in that way. But if you did look at his comments from yesterday, it didn`t
appear as though he was necessarily being sarcastic.
I do want to bring in now some of our guests to discuss what we just heard
from the task force, including Dr. Lipi Roy, who is with us.
Dr. Roy, I believe – oh, and we do have Chuck Todd.
So, Chuck, let me first get your analysis of what we just saw and the fact
that this was a shorter-than-usual briefing than we`re used to, and there
were no questions from this president, who has been under pressure all day.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Well, let me flip the script back on you, Kristen,
because it`s clear they knew they shouldn`t – that he shouldn`t be out
there taking questions today, that they had to figure out how to put this
They have got Dr. Birx doing a FOX interview with Jesse Watters, who is one
of sort of the president`s favorite people. So they`re clearly trying to do
a cleanup here.
But, Kristen, reemphasize, this president`s single favorite thing to on a
given day right now is go back and forth with reporters. What kind of
effort do you think it took to rein him in and basically convince him not
to take questions today?
WELKER: Well, look, I know there have been a number of meetings throughout
the day. And so, undoubtedly, the strategy moving forward has been at the
And it took a robust effort, I`m sure, Chuck, because you and I have spoken
about the fact that some of his top advisers have looked at these press
conferences with some skepticism, not entirely sure that it`s the right
But the president day in and day out has been at that podium and has taken
questions from the press. And yet, on the heels of yesterday`s briefing, in
which again, he questioned whether or not it would be possible to use U.V.
light, heat, these disinfectants to potentially treat COVID-19 – and it
has really been a controversy that he has been dealing with, that the White
House has been dealing with.
And, again, based on our reporting, officials were really caught off-guard
when they said that. They knew immediately. They started texting,
wondering, where did he get this information, why was he saying this?
And they knew immediately this is going to be a problem. And yet it took
until this morning when we got that statement from the press secretary
essentially trying to say look, the president has always said you should
consult your doctor.
But, Chuck, remarkable to see the companies like Lysol and the various
states that have come out and said, we just want to underscore the fact
that disinfectants should in no instance ever be used, injected in any way,
shape or form to treat any type of ailment, Chuck.
TODD: Right. No, absolutely.
And I want to get at the other piece of news that was made there on the FDA
side of things.
I think Dr. Bhadelia is still with us.
And, Dr. Bhadelia, from what you heard from Dr. Hahn, and I`m just curious.
They`re obviously speeding up some of this regulation to try to get some of
the therapeutics onto the market. Should we have any concern about cutting
this red tape?
I say this, it`s like especially on day when the FDA had to put the brakes
essentially on hydroxychloroquine.
DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: So, Chuck, I think the
issue of sort of the FDA shortcuts, that actually applies to the test more
so than therapeutics.
You actually have to go through the randomized control trials to really get
an idea about the efficacy of a drug. But let`s start with the test.
The issue with the test has been that you can have a test that looks really
great in the laboratory. It looks really great in taking samples of stock
viruses or of samples from patients that were donated to sort of test in
those. But when you actually take a test that it has FDA emergency use
authorization, and do a real-life test drive, you try it out in patients,
there is a ton of issues that come up with that clinical validation.
And so – and then when it gets deployed at multiple medical hospitals,
medical centers, they actually then have to do their own validation against
what they consider is the gold standard, which right now is the test that
we`re using, a lot of the genetic material-based test, nucleic acid-based
test that use the swab.
And so the issue has been that in a lot of places validation hasn`t really
caught up. We don`t know if a lot of these tests are going to be as
effective as what the FDA hopes they will be. And, really, the real-life
test drive that we`re doing while we`re deploying the tests is going to be
an interesting issue.
And that comes up with the antibody test as well, because they don`t seem -
- some of them do not seem to be as accurate as one would hope.
TODD: Well, let me stick with the antibody test.
There`s been two sort of fairly robust efforts where antibody tests have
been tried to try to figure out what was the real spread, if you will, both
in New York and in California. What do you take away from those? And does
that – how confident are you in those two studies?
BHADELIA: So, the big concern with antibody tests are that you don`t want
them to say that someone has been exposed to an infection when they
actually haven`t been. So, you don`t want it to be a false positive. And
you don`t want it to be a false negative which means you don`t want it to
say that someone has not been exposed.
It`s less of an issue, because you don`t think – if someone finds out they
haven`t had the disease, even if they have had it, they may not change
their behavior. But if someone thinks they have already had it, they`re
afraid they might change their behavior thinking they`re immune.
And so that`s why it becomes a big concern. For the individual, the issue
is telling someone, if they get a result one way or the other, right now,
the question that we`re facing, for example, we want to test our health
care workers with these antibody tests.
We don`t know what to tell them. We don`t know, when they get a result, is
it accurate enough for us to say, yes, you actually were exposed, oh, yes,
you are actually immune? Because then there is the whole issue of, even if
your test is truly positive, are you immune, because the science – we`re
still learning about the science of that.
Here is how it`s helpful. It`s helpful when it`s used at large population
levels in random sampling, like New York City did when it just looked at
people who were coming into grocery stores, because it matters a little
less. You might be a little – a few percentages off, but it gives you some
sense of the population prevalence.
You still have to take wit the same caveats that there might be a whole
bunch of tests that might be off on what they`re actually telling you. If
you do that across multiple areas, it gives you an idea of what places are
seeing greater activity of transmission.
So, it`s not as useful for the individual. But for public health, it helps
with planning, as long as you use with those caveats. And if you do it over
time, it tells you the trend of how many people are getting exposed at what
TODD: Kristen Welker, we saw the president again and the vice president
again try to spin the testing as a positive, as a success story.
Of all the – there is a lot of disconnects at times with these briefings,
but that`s among the bigger ones, is that it continues to be – and how
much of this is just the insistence of the president that he just not
acknowledge that testing has been a trouble spot for them?
WELKER: Oh, I think that`s a large part of it, Chuck.
And I was just on the phone with one of the president`s Republican allies
last night in Congress who made that point, that it would have been more
effective to acknowledge at the outset, look, we were behind when it came
to testing, and then they wouldn`t be playing this game of catchup, both
literally and in terms of the messaging.
Today, you saw the vice president out to the fact that five million tests
have been taken and given so far. That is certainly significant. But it
still accounts for a very small part of the overall population.
And you still have governors who say, look, we need a broader strategy here
at the national level, and, frankly, we need more equipment to carry out
these tests, equipment like swabs, for example.
The president looking to potentially invoke the Defense Production Act to
try to give the states more of that equipment, those critical supplies that
they need to carry out the tests. But so far, that has not yet happened,
and it`s not clear when the states are going to get those additional
So this continues to be at the heart of the issue.
And, Chuck, just look to Dr. Fauci on Thursday, who gave that interview to
“TIME” and essentially said, look, we`re not where we need to be when it
comes to testing. That put President Trump in the position of having to
answer for those comments yesterday.
When he was asked about it, he said, well, I disagree about those comments.
And I think that`s one of the reason – the disconnect that we`re seeing in
messaging as to why these daily briefings are potentially problematic for
President Trump, to do them on a daily basis, Chuck.
TODD: Well, look, like I said, the fact that he seemed to at least take
advice today to say, you know what, maybe limit the number of questions you
have, perhaps it`s his own way of acknowledging that yesterday didn`t go
With that, I`m going pass the baton to my friend and colleague Brian
Brian, I believe the baton is yourself.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: With that, let me agree with the analysis of
Kristen Welker and Chuck Todd that this is exactly what we have seen today,
on this very fraught day for the Trump White House, when the president
suddenly ups and disappears from the Briefing Room, vice president in tow.
Let`s bring in Ben Collins. He covers disinformation and information and
extremism and the Internet for us at NBC News.
His latest report is on Facebook ads. And conspiracy theorists have been
pushing bleach consumption and U.V. rays as a cure for coronavirus.
Ben, you cover the Wild West, in effect. So tell us for how long this stuff
has been kicking around and what your level of surprise was to hear it from
the Briefing Room yesterday.
BEN COLLINS, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Yes, I was surprised to hear it directly
from the president`s mouth, but the idea of ingesting bleach is not a new
thing on the Internet, especially on the fringes of the Internet.
In the last year, it`s sort of taken off. There is this thing called
miracle mineral solution that is now being targeted by the DOJ. They`re
going after people selling this stuff on the Internet, as of last week.
And what is this stuff? Basically, it`s bleach. It`s diluted bleach. And
over the last year, people have been ingesting it or giving it to their
kids because they believe it cures autism.
Now, is there any proof that the president knows about any of this? No. We
do know that he doesn`t really use the Internet. So, it`s probably more
likely than not that he doesn`t know about it at all.
But when people are already drinking bleach and a guy comes around to say,
hey, ingesting bleach can in some way cure coronavirus, or, worse, taking
it intravenously or something, then that`s where it gets dangerous.
We have already seen this in Iran. In Iran, in just March alone, 600 people
died of this false miracle cure involving rubbing alcohol, which is the
same thing, that was shared through text messages on the Internet.
So there are real problems with this that, you know, although it seems
silly to us, don`t drink bleach and all this stuff, it seems like a meme,
it could be a real problem if people who are already sort of halfway down
that path go all the way.
WILLIAMS: And while you`re talking, we have a box in the lower right-hand
corner of the screen reminding folks we have an interview upcoming in prime
time tonight with Bill Gates, who was also our guest during last night`s
special on testing.
He has been the unfortunate recipient of some of the more virulent rumors
on the Internet, again, your specialty, that not only did he invent and
launch this virus, but the vaccine he will eventually help bring to market,
he hopes, contains – and correct me here – it`s a, in effect, kind of a
liquid tracking device that would be injected into people?
COLLINS: Yes, look, it`s not supposed to be a smart conspiracy theory.
It is certainly stupid, and you have probably seen it on Facebook and you
have probably seen it forwarded to you through an e-mail address from
friends who have been forwarding this stuff all your life.
But there are sort of – there are consequences for this sort of thing at
this point. So, basically, the large-scale idea is that 5G towers are
strengthening the coronavirus, which was implanted by Bill Gates, and this
was all a large moneymaking scheme by the Gates Foundation to make sure
everyone in the United States got vaccines.
Now, if this sounds like an ridiculous and over-the-top premise, it`s
because absolutely is. But the danger here is that they`re using
infrastructure that`s been around on the Internet for a while. They`re
using anti-vaccination talking points. They`re using their Facebook pages.
They`re using their Instagram accounts.
And they`re taking those things that have existed for years and years, and
they`re turning that into basically like a warehouse and a clearinghouse
for the world`s sort of dumbest information.
But some of the stuff that comes out of these dumb conspiracy theories sort
of pervades. You might not believe the whole thing with 5G towers and Bill
Gates and all this stuff, but you might, at the end of the day, be more
skeptical about vaccines because of it.
And that`s the whole point of this whole, is to get people to – downwind,
they will catch the very end of the conspiracy theory and they will believe
that to be legitimate, because they have flooded the flooded the zone so
much at this point already.
WILLIAMS: And, indeed, a la vapor trails in this country, all it takes is
one or two marginal celebrities to throw their support behind it, ask a
leading question Instagram or Twitter.
And, indeed in the U.K., they have been fighting arson at the base of 5G
towers because the rumor has run rampant that these are the source of our
Ben Collins, again, my condolence for the area of the Internet you have
staked out as your beat. Thank you very much for spending a few minutes
with us and explaining all of it.
With us now, a physician we saw just minutes ago, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, the -
- an infectious disease physician and among our medical contributors.
Thank you again for coming on our special last night.
When you hear the math, Doctor, we`re a nation, I don`t know – I think the
estimate starts at 327 million, give or take on any given day, that we have
tested 5.1 million, a number put out there with pride today by the vice
president. What do you think?
BHADELIA: So, I mean, I think when you talk about – you can put out
numbers without the actual context, right?
There`s two issues to this. The first issue is, that`s still not enough,
because as you heard from Dr. Ashish Jha, who has been on your show and
others, is that we`re still – we need to meet two or three times as much,
from a study from Harvard that was released earlier this week, to be able
to really get a handle of things.
But the other thing that belies is that it`s not just the testing kit. I
feel like I say this all the time. If you just – if you have enough
testing kits, that`s not it, because there is a whole pathway how a person
gets a test to getting the result, and that includes a health care work
were personal protective equipment, which, despite what they said at the
hearing, we`re still facing supply chain issues as we look forward to the
next couple of months of potentially having an increase in patients, if we
have a second peak or something else.
The other is, you need these swabs for the current test that every – most
places are using. You need containers. You knee reagents and laboratories.
And in different situations and in different labs, those are the things
that are the limits to running the tests. It`s not just the test kits.
And so a lot of those things are actually things that are manufactured at
the national level and that need to be ramped up, that need to be provided.
And so we`re – and then, even with all of that, we`re getting to just the
If you really want to get a handle on how big the problem is, you want to
test large swathes of the population, particularly to answer the question
of the denominator. How many people actually have this disease? And we
still don`t know that.
WILLIAMS: Also, Doctor, we saw in days past the president came into the
Briefing Room and pronounced the country past its peak.
And yet, when you look at the level of reporting that I see, and I`m sure
you see, you see people using terms like plateau. You see numbers in some
cases, yes, off their all-time peak, but sneaking up again on a day-to-day
This is the danger, of course. And as it seems almost to move west with the
time zones, it`s moving into rural areas, where, on a per capita basis,
especially with hot spots like pork processing plants, this can really run
an area ragged.
I mean, Brian, my experience has been with outbreaks that outbreaks and how
they play out is a function of how many people are vulnerable to that
disease, which, of course, all of us are to this, because this is a brand-
new disease, but also the resilience of the health care systems in which
those – unfortunately, those infectious diseases outbreaks play out.
And so when you look at the places where you`re seeing now, the hot spots,
as you said, some of the meat manufacturing plants and other places that
are in more rural areas, you`re talking about potentially health systems
that don`t have that resilience.
My own experience, I was – I did the locum tenens experience of being a
doctor in an area that I was the only physician – this is in the United
States – in 500 miles. And I can tell you, rural America, there are spots
where there just aren`t enough physicians.
Two-thirds of the lack of enough physicians actually is in rural areas.
Eighty percent of the hospitals that are closed down are in states that did
not take medical expansion in some of these rural areas.
And so those are the places that you worry about, that we talk about the
cities, but, as it moves westward, this may actually be a much bigger deal,
particularly in states that are opening up, without having that capacity in
WILLIAMS: We`re not great as a country at learning lessons.
Do you think we will learn this lesson, or when there is a vaccine, will
there be such a rush to return to normal that we won`t want to look back
and dwell on the shortages and gaps we had in care? Our nature is to push
BHADELIA: Well, I really do hope that this alters some of not just the
systemic memory and the systemic sort of approach to things that we do at
the medical system level, at the public health system level.
And a huge part of that is, we still seem to live outbreak to outbreak.
We`re a culture of outbreak response, rather than outbreak preparedness.
We don`t have the surge capacity, as is one of the – at least the most
expensive health system, even if it`s not the best health care system. We
still don`t have the surge capacity to take on this new surge of patients,
We have had to really go through extreme changes in the health care field
to meet this. And so what I hope comes out on the medical side and on the
public health side is putting resources that are devoid and disconnected
from the political cycle that constantly support that readiness.
And then on the public level, one hopes you see the experience that
happened with SARS in a lot of Asian countries, that it actually impacted
the collective memory. When I talked to my colleagues who work in public
health there, they said that it had an impact on the population, this
memory of what they had to go through and the importance of the measures
that were put into place.
And that made the approach to the current COVID-19 pandemic a bit easier
when it came to getting public cooperation into these very restrictive
measures that were put into place.
WILLIAMS: As always, thank you for sharing your wisdom and your expertise
with us, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia. We appreciate it very much.
Our next guest is Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
On Monday, New York Governor Cuomo announced Jeffries as part of a new
partnership to bring health care services and testing to residents of New
York City public housing. Those residents have, for all the wrong reasons,
been getting a lot of attention lately and a lot of news media coverage
well before the COVID outbreak in New York.
Congressman, first off, just to establish for our viewers, there are 435
members of the House. All of you are apportioned according to population.
So, none of you have a more populated district than the others necessarily,
but dense population, you have to be right up there.
How is your constituent body doing? And I know you represent Brooklyn and
part of Queens.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Good evening, Brian. Great to be with you,
even under these circumstances.
People are hanging in there. New York City is a resilient community, a
We have been knocked down before, hit hard by 9/11, hit hard by the Great
Recession, hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. We have gotten up each and every
time. We will get up this time as well.
But this pandemic, both because it`s a public health crisis, as well as an
economic crisis, is particularly severe. It`s an extraordinary moment,
which is why, in Congress, we believe we have to continue to provide an
WILLIAMS: Tell us about this new initiative that the governor announced.
JEFFRIES: Well, Governor Cuomo has provided great leadership, and in
partnership with many of my colleagues in the House, along with Greg Meeks
and Nydia Velazquez, Yvette Clarke, all of whom represent significant
populations of the New York City housing public community.
We know that many public housing residents are particularly at risk, both
because, disproportionately, they are essential workers. They are out there
on the front lines trying to help defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and help the
city continue to move forward, even as many others socially distance
We also know that, within the public housing community, there are a
significant number of individuals who have preexisting conditions, higher
rates of diabetes or heart disease or respiratory illness, the things that
make people particularly susceptible to devastating consequences in
connection with COVID-19.
We also know that public housing residents are under-resourced and
underserved traditionally. And that`s why we have decided to partner
together to make sure that we surge resources to those individuals who need
it most, both within the public housing context and in vulnerable
communities throughout New York City.
WILLIAMS: And finally, economically, it must be a staggering number of
percentage of your constituents who have missed rent payments, mortgage
payments, who are having the first trouble in their adult lifetimes
worrying about food security.
JEFFRIES: That is correct.
And what has been very difficult about this moment is that so many people
have been impacted. Either their families have been impacted as a result of
someone being infected by COVID-19, or someone has been laid off, someone
has been forced to miss a bill payment because of the economic consequences
of this extraordinary situation that we find ourselves in, particularly in
a hard hit city like New York.
That`s one of the reasons why House Democrats are committed to making sure
that we provide the resources necessary to cities and municipalities and
counties and small towns and states throughout the country, because, in
doing so, we make sure that the public health infrastructure, the doctors
and the nurses, as well as the first responders, the police officers, the
firefighters, the EMS employees, and that basic government sources for the
least, the lost, the left behind, the poor, the sick and the afflicted can
continue in the midst of this pandemic.
And we`re going to make sure we do all that is necessary in this next
legislative effort, CARES 2.0, with leadership from Speaker Pelosi, to get
WILLIAMS: It seems like a decade ago we watched you as one of the House
managers during impeachment, but it was a pandemic ago.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, thank you very much very
much for joining us and having us in tonight.
Our next guest is former Democratic Senator from California Barbara Boxer,
served her state for 10 years in the House, another 24 years in the Senate.
Senator, let`s start with the way most Americans started today, perhaps
looking at their phones, social media, seeing a countless number of memes,
some of them cruel and gross, about drinking bleach, all of them along this
line involving our president and what was almost 24 hours ago the questions
he posed to the experts in the room about injecting disinfectant, about
introducing U.V. light inside the human body as a potential miracle cure.
BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: My response as I watched him do
this was one of disbelief.
And there are seven words I have been saying about Donald Trump for a long
time now, which is I have never seen anything like this.
I don`t want to say those words again, but I think there`s a little while
And I think the reason the president left today as he did is because he was
afraid of the questions. He made a huge mistake. And I listened to everyone
you interviewed. And the young man who is following all these fringe people
who were talking about these – quote, unquote – “cures,” I think he knows
BOXER: I do. I think he`s in touch with the fringes.
And I think he knew exactly what he was doing. He was sending a message to
those people. He did it at Charlottesville. He does it again and again.
But he went too far.
And the last point I`d make is, I have served with five presidents over all
those years you talked about, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama and many
in between, three Republicans and two Democrats.
I never doubted that any of those presidents lacked empathy or sympathy. I
never worried that any of them would stand up and be a snake oil salesman
for unproven drug therapies and even sort of recommending poison to the
American people, and, by the way, hardly ever, ever touching his heart and
saying, today, we lost some more beautiful Americans.
It`s stunning, really stunning.
WILLIAMS: Yes, and, most days, as we have noted, the condolence portion of
the briefing falls to the vice president, who often speaks second, after
the president starts things off.
When today`s briefing started, Senator, I noticed the usual doctors did not
file out with the president, no Fauci, no Birx. We learned later that one
reason may be they put Dr. Birx out on FOX News.
I`m going play for you now a portion where she, in an interview we believe
was taped today, talked about the president`s remarks yesterday and
somewhat of his process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: You know,
when he gets new information, he likes to talk that through out loud and
really have that dialogue.
And so that`s what dialogue he was having. I think he just saw the
information at the time immediately before the press conference, and he was
still digesting that information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Yet, Senator, here`s the problem.
A week ago, Dr. Birx took a pass when someone asked her how it would be
possible to go to a massage therapist, a hairstylist or a tattoo artist and
remain socially distanced. She took a pass and kind of left it up to
Yesterday, she had the option – while she kind of deferred and demurred,
she had the option of being more forceful in response to this, before 1,000
memes were launched last evening and overnight, and took a pass.
She is a career public servant. She is a scientist. She is a U.S. Army
veteran. She is a lot of things,. And she has done meaningful work in her
But, as I know you have pointed out over time, at some point, the
responsibility begins to fall on the adults around the president.
Look, my grandkids know you don`t touch bleach, you don`t drink anything
that is meant to disinfect, you know. And they knew that when they were 6
I will tell you, you watch her – I watch Dr. Fauci, whom I know since the
AIDS crisis. That`s when I got to Congress. And I think they just keep
weighing in their mind, it is worse if I`m here or is it worse if I leave?
And I don`t envy that. But I do think, in this question, she should have
been very clear. She said something about, yes, it`s good for tabletops,
but it`s not good to human use.
But you`re right. Should it have been way stronger.
But, look, this president got caught being, you know, really like a snake
oil salesman. And that`s why today you didn`t see him standing there
proudly answering all these questions. He was in, he was out.
I think they`re in crisis over this thing. If you look at the polling –
and you know the president looks at the polling – he is not doing well. He
is not following the science.
And when you asked that wonderful doctor who is a consultant to MSNBC, what
comes out of this, I will tell you what came out Ebola. President Obama put
in place basically a whole office in the White House that would deal with
So, that has to now come back again in the next administration. And we have
to believe in the science. And I`m glad to say, most Americans believe in
the science. That`s what the polls show.
WILLIAMS: You can`t be happy with the talk about blue state bailouts.
BOXER: No. Well, of course I`m not happy.
The states, whether they`re red or blue, this president said to them,
you`re in charge. You`re in charge of the testing. You`re in charge of the
opening of the – your economy.
How do you say that and then listen to Mitch McConnell say, you know, let
them go bankrupt?
It`s a disgrace. And I agree with Governor Cuomo, who said, it`s the worst
idea I ever heard, and he kind of dared McConnell to do it. It would be a
disaster for this economy. And for all of the talk about how much we all
care about our first responders, we know what we owe them, who do you think
pays the first responders, the police, the fire, and many of the nurses in
the community hospitals and the doctors?
The states. So, is McConnell saying he doesn`t care about them? Let me tell
you, he is in trouble in his state. He should be in trouble. I worked with
Mitch for many years. He has turned into a cold-hearted person.
WILLIAMS: We have to end on that note.
Former Senator Barbara Boxer, thank you very much for having us into your
place tonight. We greatly appreciate you joining us.
Our thanks as well to our earlier guests, Congressman Jeffries, Dr.
Bhadelia, Ben Collins.
We`re going to take our break in our live coverage.
On the other side of this break, Ari Melber picks up our live coverage for
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi. I`m Ari Melber. Good evening to you.
We have been in special coverage of the Coronavirus Task Force briefing,
which ended in a different way today, the president leaving without taking
any questions at all, while he has been embroiled in a full-blown scandal.
Even by the standards of these briefings up to today, this one was such
that he didn`t want to take any questions. He walked out of the room.
And there`s new reporting. In fact, moments from now, I will be joined by a
journalist who has reporting about how yesterday`s briefing so thoroughly
blew up in the president`s face that four different sources tied to the
Trump White House are saying they may change the whole strategy.
But before we get to that, we begin, as we often do, in our special
coverage with the medical experts, so you get the facts about what you need
I have infectious disease physician and NBC News medical contributor Dr.
Many viewers will recognize you as part of our ongoing coverage. I
appreciate you staying with us.
BHADELIA: Thank you for having me, Ari.
MELBER: Let`s begin, as I mentioned, with the facts.
When people are trying to understand what is out there and what is
available to them for potential treatment, what do they need to know and
what should they ignore, given the president`s controversial and
misinformed statements at yesterday`s briefing?
BHADELIA: Well, Ari, I wish that this were not true, and I wasn`t saying
this, but there currently are no FDA-approved proven therapies for
coronavirus, for COVID-19.
And that`s – we`re all working really hard to find that through just
testing, through doing randomized controlled trial, through hard work, and
at all levels of science.
But we currently do not have a treatment. And, certainly, that treatment is
not ingestion of toxic materials that might harm your body. And there is no
evidence that direct U.V. light can be internalized that would actually
help destroy a virus in a person`s body.
MELBER: So, when a person perhaps watching this broadcast, or perhaps a
friend or family member says, oh, I heard X treats this, whether X is
something, as you mentioned, toxic that the president floated yesterday,
or, hey, I saw on Facebook some other treatment, you`re saying, full stop
right there, don`t go any further, because there are not currently
medically FDA-approved, scientifically tested treatments.
BHADELIA: That`s correct.
And what you`re seeing, maybe, there might be confusion is that, in some
cases, sometimes drugs that are already on the market may show some
promise. And so physicians then have a discussion with patients to say,
hey, I don`t know if this is going to help or harm, but I`m willing to try
And that`s why you might see in certain hospitals that there are drugs that
might be approved for something else that are being used. But, in all of
those settings, there is no evidence that any of those, for any of the
randomized control trials that have come out so far, that there is
definitive evidence that we have a slam dunk with anything, unfortunately.
And several of the president`s statements from the Briefing Room have had
to be corrected. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Hydroxychloroquine, it`s shown very encouraging, very, very
encouraging early results.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I`m not totally sure what the president
was referring to.
Many of the things that you hear out there are what I have called anecdotal
reports. They may be true, but they`re anecdotal.
TRUMP: That might not come back at all, Jeff. It may not come back at all.
He`s talking about a worst-case scenario where you have a big flu and you
have some corona.
FAUCI: We will have coronavirus in the fall. I am convinced of that.
TRUMP: Deborah, have you ever heard of that, the heat and the light
relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?
BIRX: Not as a treatment.
TRUMP: When I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one
minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection
inside or almost a cleaning.
QUESTION: There is no scenario that that could be injected into a person,
is there? I mean…
WILLIAM BRYAN, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY DIRECTORATE: No, I`m here to talk about the findings that we
have in the study. We don`t do that within that lab.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Doctor, do you believe the medical experts are going far enough? As
we have just seen, they`re in this very tough position of correcting their
boss, the most powerful person in the country, in these settings.
And yet, as doctors, they obviously have their own duty and oath. And as
most of them being government officials, they also have a duty there. Do
you think they`re hitting it right? Or do they need to go a little further?
BHADELIA: This is a tough position, Ari, for – I can`t imagine the
position that is for Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, because, as was mentioned
earlier, they`re in this tenuous situation.
We`re in the middle of a crisis. We`re managing this very intricate and
ever-changing landscape of not just the science itself, but also what we`re
seeing play out with the patients, with the infections in the community,
with the resources that are available.
And I can see what their caution has been, which is that they`re trying to
keep their head down and get the work done. And I agree with you that there
is – there comes a point that at least the – when you hear a mistruth
that could potentially harm somebody, that there should be a bit more
direct addressing of that to say, nope, that is definitely not true.
And I have seen that at certain other points. And I think, in this
situation, it was just – it was just so out of the left field, you don`t
even know what to say to that.
MELBER: You`re saying it was unexpected that we are now five weeks into the
most serious period of this in America`s experience of the pandemic, months
in it globally.
There`s a daily task force briefing to provide information. It was rather
than expected for Dr. Birx to see the president suggest that maybe people
should drink bleach.
BHADELIA: I certainly wasn`t expecting that. But, yes, that is – I –
There has been a continuous level of just misdirection. Our energies should
be focused on what works. Our energies should be focused on a united
message about what each individual needs to do.
And when I hear these – when I hear these task force meetings, I hear just
responses to criticisms that they may have heard, rather than providing a
perspective path forward, a unified path forward that gives us a plan for
some hope of what`s coming down the road, but really realization of how
serious this situation is, and a pause to sort of appreciate the losses we
have already had.
That is not the tenor that I would want at the podium while we`re in the
middle of this crisis.
MELBER: Yes, it is really something.
You continue to provide us with your earnest, thoughtful, scientific
information and background and fact-checking. And I also see you taking
pains to evaluate and weigh what these doctors are up against in a tough
time, which I know comes from a very thoughtful place.
So we appreciate that. I think a lot of viewers do too. Thank you, Doctor.
BHADELIA: Thank you.
MELBER: We turn now to another breaking news part of this story.
Jonathan Swan, Axios` national political reporter, has a new scoop out. We
just got it in. I`m going to read the headline, sir, and let you explain.
Viewers who are watching the news, you are well aware that there has been a
roiling controversy about how to deal with all of these press briefings,
basically from their inception. Then the president did what he did last
night. We were just reporting on it.
It has obviously – I will say it – blown up in his face, even by the
standards of this White House. And your headline here is, tonight, breaking
– quote – “Trump plans to cut daily coronavirus briefings.”
What are your sources telling you, Jonathan?
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: So, President Trump plans to dramatically pare back
these daily press conferences, with all likelihood as soon as next week.
He will no longer appear every day, and, when he does, will do shorter
appearances. Today, you saw quite a short one. Now, of course, with
everything Trump, you need the asterisk. This could – he could change his
mind, et cetera.
But this is the product of pretty intense conversations over a number of
weeks. Trump was very resistant to the idea. He had internal and external
advisers saying, these briefings are not helping you. Your polls are not
good against Biden. We have got weak numbers among seniors, and the
spectacle of you fighting with the press, et cetera, is not helpful.
A source told me today that it finally seems to have dawned on the
president that these may not be helpful, after the disinfectant episode.
MELBER: You also have a quote from a source discussing the motivation.
Behind the scenes, you write – quote – “A number of Trump`s most trusted
advisers urged him to stop doing the televised briefings” and told him –
quote – “he`s overexposed and that`s part of the reason polls aren`t
looking good for him right now against Biden.”
Is your reporting suggesting that the reason to back off the briefings is
not necessarily the reason so many in America and certainly his critics
have called for it, the misinformation, the emphasis of political officials
over medical officials, but rather that there is just a view or a concern
that this is politically bad?
SWAN: That`s right.
No, there`s no – it`s not a concern internally about that – I mean, some
– there is some. But I mean, the decision-making process, and certainly
the advice given to him, is, this is not helpful for you, and this is not
going to help you get reelected, and this is not benefiting you at this
There`s also a view internally that there simply isn`t enough new things to
say every day in these marathon briefings. And as one person said to me,
you wonder how he gets to the point where we`re talking about injecting
There simply isn`t enough material, in many of his advisers` view, to
justify him every day standing up for two hours and getting into combat
with the press.
MELBER: Well, Jonathan, the obvious question to that is, why did that take
so long to figure out?
SWAN: Well, it didn`t take his advisers that long to figure out.
Trump has been very insistent, and even as recently as today, that the
ratings are great. And, of course, the ratings are high. You have got a
homebound population hungry for information, sitting on their couches with
nothing much else to do.
But Trump has seen the ratings as, you know, currency. And so he has – he
is reluctant to give up on that. He`s talked about it being free media.
And, of course, he can`t do his rallies anymore, which he thoroughly enjoys
So, there are lots of reasons why he personally is very reluctant and has
been hanging onto this, even as his advisers have said, don`t do it.
MELBER: I want to be clear with viewers about the implications in what
you`re saying. You`re reporting it out, and you`re just giving us what your
But, for viewers, I just want to underscore what you just reported is that
the motivations here are about – quote – “politics and free media,” and
what he enjoys, like rallies. Those are all personal or political
They are what many would call simply inappropriate metrics and motivations
for what the United States should do with the precious time and energy and
the bully pulpit of the presidency during a crisis of this magnitude, as
today we report the U.S. death toll topping 50,000.
It may be expected, it may not surprise people, but those are something
else, the notion that this is not soothing, that the White House briefing
is supposed to be a kind of narcissistic political spa day for the
commander in chief, that he enjoys it like his rallies, rather than a time
to provide life-and-death information to the public.
I have two more questions for you, Jonathan, before I let you go.
Number one, take a look at one of the substantive issues with all this, the
kind of mixed signals that the president has given to reopening states,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re starting rejuvenation of our economy again, in a safe and
structured and very responsible fashion.
Well, you have a lot of people that don`t have to be told to do what
they`re doing. He`s a very capable man. He knows what he`s doing. He`s done
a very good job as governor, Georgia.
I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with
his decision, but, at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right.
And I wasn`t happy with Brian Kemp. I wasn`t at all happy, because – and I
could have done something about it if I wanted to, but I`m saying let, the
governors do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Does your reporting also suggest that there are concerns with the
president`s actual performance, that, for example, the back-and-forth on
Georgia was not about science, to him, and was also a kind of a
contradiction of his own making?
SWAN: Yes, there are advisers in there who have strongly expressed that
view that these – that the longer these briefings go on, the less
beneficial they are to him.
The Brian Kemp situation is interesting. I have spoken to a couple of
people in there who believe that this is less to do with this particular
decision and more a pattern. Trump feels that he – and probably
justifiably so – that he really built Brian Kemp, or that he certainly
wouldn`t be governor were it not for Trump.
And Trump feels that he hasn`t been sufficiently deferential to him,
particularly when he went against Trump and appointed Kelly Loeffler,
proven to be, in many of the people around Trump`s views, a bad idea, and
now, with these guidelines, not abiding by the guidelines, even though
Trump encouraged people to come out and open.
But the question I have is, if you`re another governor sitting there
watching Trump cut his knees out from under him, what are you thinking? I
mean, Trump has had said, all right, guys, let`s open up, liberate all
And Brian Kemp strides out into the breach, and falls into the hole.
SWAN: I mean, it`s pretty instructive.
MELBER: Well, it`s like a scene out of “The Last King of Scotland.”
The final question I want to ask you involves reading the end of your
piece, which just came across the wires, so I don`t think most people have
seen all of it. And it`s really striking.
So I`m reading from Jonathan Swan`s new report at Axios, amidst this
controversy, reports from sources that the president may curtail or
fundamentally change these controversial briefings.
And we just got this, so I`m going to be reading off the paper. We don`t
have it up on the screen.
But it says – quote – “These conversations were under way before Trump
suggested that researchers investigate whether doctors could cure
coronavirus by injecting people with disinfectant. A source said, it
finally seems to have dawned on Trump after this incident that these
briefings aren`t helping him. The CDC and other public health officials
responded obliquely to the comment by telling people not to drink bleach.”
One of the more striking ways to conclude an article in 2020, Jonathan.
SWAN: Yes, I did not expect to be writing that, even in these times.
SWAN: I don`t know what else to say, Ari.
MELBER: Well, you talk for a living. You have to say something else.
SWAN: Don`t drink bleach, ladies and gentlemen. It`s not a good idea.
MELBER: Yes, yes.
Look, here we are. And there`s a lot of seriousness, which we cover day to
day to day.
The only goofiness that we can embrace is, if it becomes a punchline to
remind everyone not to drink bleach, while that is ridiculous, hopefully,
it will ensure that, whether you remember it as a joke, or a sick joke, or
a sad thing that the president floated yesterday, no one should be drinking
And here we are. Welcome back to 2020.
MELBER: Jonathan Swan, thank you for joining us.
SWAN: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: What we`re going to do right now here is quit in – I should say,
fit in a quick break.
But, when we come back, we have special coverage. We have new reporting. I
have some very special guests, because I am anchoring our next hour on 7:00
I`m Ari Melber. Keep it right here on MSNBC.
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